The poultry industry is one of the fastest growing agro-based industries in the world. This can be attributed to an increasing demand for poultry meat and egg products. However, a major problem facing the poultry industry is the large scale accumulation of wastes including manure and litter which may pose disposal and pollution problems. Poultry litter or broiler litter is a mixture of poultry excreta, spilled feed, feathers and material used as bedding in poultry housing. Common bedding materials include wood shavings, sawdust, peanut hulls, shredded sugar cane, straws and other dry, absorbent, low-cost organic materials. Sand is also occasionally used as bedding. The bedding materials help in absorbing moisture, thus limiting the production of ammonia and harmful pathogens.
Poultry manure contains all the essential nutrients required for crop production, and its value as an organic fertilizer and a source of plant nutrients has been recognized for centuries. Even with its beneficial effects on plant growth, however, manure constitutes only a small percentage of the nutrients applied to cropland when compared to commercial fertilizer. Poultry manure fertilizer is not used to its maximum potential for several reasons, including. Lack of information failure to recognize how and where to use it.
Broilers have on average a 47-day growing period, during which the typical broiler chicken will generate about two pounds of litter, if we add the manure and bedding materials. Actual manure generation will be lower because it is only a fractional component of litter. This translates to an average of about 0.7 ounce per day per bird, varying considerably over the life of the bird. This means that a single broiler house, which can contain well over 20,000 birds, can generate over 40,000 lbs of litter per flock.
Historically, applications for used poultry litter have included; and still include, use as feed for cattle in the commercial beef industry, land application as a fertilizer for crops or pastures, or occasionally as potting material for the greenhouse and plant container industries. Recently there has been an upsurge in the use of poultry litter as a bio-fuel source for electrical cogeneration and gasification.
Poultry litter's traditional use is as fertilizer. As with other manures, the fertilizing value of poultry litter is excellent, but it is less concentrated than chemical fertilizers, giving it a relatively low value per ton. This makes it uneconomical to ship long distance, and it tends to lose its nitrogen value fairly quickly. Extracting its value requires that it be used on nearby farms. This limits its resale value in regions where there are more poultry farms than suitable nearby farmland. Poultry litter provides a major source of nitrogen, phosphorus and trace elements for crop production and is effective in improving physical and biological fertility, indicating that land application remains as the main option for the utilization of this valuable resource.
When applied at 2,500 kg per hectare chicken litter supplies; 82.5 kg – (n) nitrogen, 37.5 kg – (p) phosphorous and 42.5 kg – (k) potassium
(c) Use as Animal feed:- Poultry manure, either on its own or when mixed with feed grains, has been found to be a valuable feed for cattle and fish. However, the presence of foreign materials, such as plastic, glass, and feathers affects the digestibility of poultry waste and hence it is important to remove these from the litter before using it as a feed. From a hygiene perspective, unprocessed poultry waste contains potential pathogenic microorganisms such as Clostridium, Salmonella and Enterobacter spp. Hence proper processing to reduce the number of these microorganisms or render the waste free of pathogens is required. Although disease problems have not been reported from feeding poultry litter to farm animals under acceptable conditions but Cu toxicity has been found to be a problem, especially in sheep. When an excess of Cu is added as a growth promoter to poultry diets, it is excreted in high concentration in the manure since Cu is poorly absorbed in the bird's digestive system. Sheep are less tolerant than other livestock species to high dietary levels of Cu when fed broiler litter. Processed chicken manure and litter have been used as a feed ingredient for almost 40 years in the U.S. These contain large amounts of protein, fibre, and minerals, and have been deliberately mixed into ruminant feed for these nutrients. Normally, this animal waste is used by small farmers and owners of beef and dairy herds as a winter supplement for cows and weaned calves.